Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 36

I wish I had something witty to say, but since at the time of the writing of this it's 1:30 am for me, my system has no more caffeine reserves to draw upon. Therefore, on with the show!

Judges This Week: Si and Rin

Word Count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). One entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results announced: Next Wednesday afternoon.

Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they're for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).


“We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day.”


  1. Unforgiven

    223 words


    “We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day,” said Francis. “He’s getting more and more extreme with every performance. Can’t you do anything? You are his twin.”

    Elise watched as her brother prepared his molten stage; sparks of orange flicked up from white hot coals, blazing torches embraced the scene and in the middle, unperturbed, was her brother Christo. His eyes, obsidian mirrors reflecting the dancing flames, refused to meet hers, focussing only on the fire, always the fire.

    “He won’t listen to me,” said Elise. “This is what he wants, what he’s always wanted.”

    “But if he takes that step, if the fires claim him …”

    “Then his sins will be washed away and his spirit cleansed,” said Brother Mark, guiding them further back to safety.

    Elise ran her hand over her the smooth skin of her cheek, its tightness drawing her lips up into a permanent half-smile making a mockery of the agony the injuries had caused her, still caused her. Her wax-carved face was his continual reminder; an accident borne out of childish clumsiness but forever unforgiven.

    She turned back to watch her brother continue his act of penance. He would never stop until he had forced himself to suffer what she had suffered, what he had inflicted. And she would never try and prevent him.

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  3. Through the Door
    300 words

    We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day, but that’s what makes Calvin’s magic shows so compelling. When he reaches into that top hat, we know that he’s going to pull something out, but we don’t know what. Neither does he.
    He got into magic when he was young, after Uncle Jerry brought him a magic set. Over the years he added to his repertoire with visits to Alfredo’s Magic Emporium. After that closed down, he shopped online. That’s where he got the book.
    I don’t know what’s in that book – he won’t show me - but it transformed him. His shows have been getting bigger, from the living room, to the town hall.
    For this show, he’s built a door from warped, dark wood, carved with ornate patterns. I can’t take my eyes from it, so I don’t see him reach into the top hat. The gasps of the audience attract my attention, and I see that he’s holding a ruby the size of his fist, alight with a fiery glow.
    Then comes the part of the show I’m waiting for. He opens the door. He must have it rigged up to the sound system, as we hear a deep, unearthly moan. He steps through and the door slams behind him.
    There are more gasps from the audience, and, as the seconds pass, the wonder turns to concern, but I know he’ll return.
    When Calvin reappears at the opposite side of the hall to cheers from the crowd, he’s smiling. His suit appears to be charred, and I swear, he’s smouldering. He’s smouldering, but smiling. As his brother I can see the fear hidden behind that smile. The same fear engulfs me too, because as his brother, I know he’ll go through that door again.

  4. Kelly Griffiths
    300 words

    P is for Pyro

    "We all know he's going to set himself on fire one day," Robert said, throwing up his hands. He was sick to death of these department meetings.

    "So... what of it? They all set themselves on fire sooner or later," General Irri answered.

    "Exactly. Sooner or later we lose them all. I'd say that's a major problem."

    "Are you suggesting we scrap the program?"

    "I'm saying we should think about it."

    Everyone looked at Robert as if he had two heads, but Robert couldn't watch even one more tragedy play out in front of him. On Rick Bodeker he took his stand.

    Rick had been grinding a neo-natal compound when it exploded, blowing yittrium 93 and shards of his pestle onto the lenses of his eyes. It was almost always pharmacists, family men.

    "I'm tired of watching it," Robert sighed, "We've tried everything, and we can't teach them to control it. Sooner or later they look at their wife or their kid or their dog or just some schmuck on the street, and- boom! All the time we put into them is wasted. We can't even count on the bachelors. What could they possibly regret? Not the terrorists? The instant they start down that I-hate-myself train of thought, the game's over. I watched the last guy set himself on fire in the middle of a counseling session. How do you think that makes me feel?" Robert searched the faces to see if he was reaching anyone. He wasn't.

    "Robert, I think you need a vacation," General Irri glanced at the officers guarding the door. They stepped forward and stood on either side of Robert's chair. He made a decision in that moment to get to Rick first. If he could arrange for Rick to get a good look at the general...

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  6. Embers by Jeff Rowlands
    282 words

    We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day but all us grandchildren just watch him fascinated. He is our post meal entertainment.

    The same ritual for him after every huge family Sunday lunch. His hand on his stomach in contentment. Sated. He asks one of us to get his favourite tumbler. His prized bottle of cognac. He pours with care, gazes at it in appreciation for a moment or two before he starts supping with relish, tutting with pleasure as he savours the taste of the dark toxic fluid.

    As he pours his second stiff one, he lights a cigarette and we take bets on how long it will be before he falls asleep. The bets are in seconds rather than minutes.

    As he drifts away and starts snoozing his fingers grasp his glass but his other hand holds his cigarette loosely over the edge of his antique armchair. We wonder whether the cigarette will fall from his grasp or burn down to a stub, singeing his fingers. Another bet. Just a few sweets in it for us.

    Today his cigarette slowly burns out, we watch disappointed as just the embers remain then the cigarette loses every little bit of fire it had. More tuts but this time in disappointment. He slowly stirs, jumps slightly, opens an eye and follows this by opening the other. Spotting his unlit cigarette, his eyes light up. He relights it, looks around at us all genially. “You’re too young to realise it now but you can’t beat a cigarette after lunch.” He coughs and swallows some drink.

    We turn away defeated disgusted that like him we have been beaten by a cigarette.

  7. Transcription
    Dave @ParkInkSpot
    298 red hot words (ahr!)
    “We all knew he was going to set himself on fire one day.”

    “It was a logical step,” Jack agreed. “Tilman had already demonstrated that the basic process worked, starting with tiny flesh wounds and working up through serious injuries, amputations, even a major spinal injury.”

    “The problem was the startup going public,” Jamael explained. “We had this process with fascinating implications, and we realized that we were about to change the world of medicine forever. To Tilman, that meant a Big Splash IPO with a show for the press, bread and circuses for the politicians, and a miracle for the public.”

    “Right, he wanted something to rival the latest iPhone or the next Windows release. So he set up the Immolation Trap.”

    “Drew some inspiration from Houdini, it was brilliant and creepy and shocking. And my god was it everything Tilman had imagined.”

    “One of those ‘where were you’ moments; everyone remembers exactly where they were when that flaming thermite rained down in that armorglass tube on live television.”

    “Tilman was burned to ash within minutes.”

    “Then he was rebuilt from basic elements by the Elijah nanotech system.”

    “You know the rest. Ten minutes later, he did it all over again; rain of fire, immolation death and destruction, complete resurrection and restoration from backups. Cameras caught it all, twice. Tilman proved the Elijah System could keep multiple backups current with a transcription lag of only seconds.”

    “If only he knew,” Jack looked haunted.

    “Tilman thought we’d invented a workable replacement for the entire field of medicine. He couldn’t guess how it would be perverted.”

    “We hear the rumors about political prisoners, enemies of the State, torture that never ends. Execution and resurrection, pain recorded and looped.”

    Jamael nodded. “We didn’t invent miracles. What we invented was Hell.”

  8. Title: Clubs, hoops and diabolos (257 words) (Mary Thompson) @MaryRuth69

    We all know he's going to set himself on fire one day.

    He's out there every evening in muted light, arms swinging from the elbows as he practises his fire poi; committing himself to his own special religion, the only thing of any importance to him.

    Last night was no exception. Despite the pittering rain, he was there for hours, lost in thought and concentration. He skulked back in later, when it was dark, when he thought I was asleep, when he was so physically exhausted that all he could do was collapse. He shrugged off his coat and sprawled back on the sofa, where I found him in the morning, mottled skin, mouth wide open and snoring like a farmyard animal.

    After several coffees, he was awake again and back to normal, whatever normal is for him; his eyes all shiny as he described the tambour of his heart when he spins and twirls and manoeuvres his clubs, hoops and diabolos, the danger of the fire forever present.

    I don't get it, I never will, but one thing I know for sure is that it's the only thing making him tick, the only thing that's hauled him up from the depths of utter despair to be a fully functioning adult again, so for that reason, for that one and only reason, I sit and listen to him waxing lyrical about his crazy obsession. And I encourage and support him in spite of my misgivings and desperate, all-consuming fear that it's all going to end in disaster.

  9. Flame Went To His Head

    “We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day,” Jimmy Paget tossed in an incendiary aside as a pack of us clustered in the cramped hallway waiting for a chance to corner the candidate and ask our prescribed questions.

    Jimmy was always good for a monotony-diverting one-liner.

    “He doesn’t even smoke,” piped in Kate Whoosit, a svelte stringer from a low rent, Christian monthly out of Holy Roller-in-the-wall Oklahoma.

    A number of untrimmed eyebrows were raised at that point.

    We were an endangered species these day, we hairy, dishevelled men and women ink slingers from the old school, wherever the hell that mausoleum was.

    Wherever it was, it was probably a rat-infested condemned hulk providing shelter for homeless scribblers.

    More and more, the increasingly younger herd of journalists, reporters and opinion-makers were a well-manicured lot. They were everywhere; their suits pressed, their skin as smooth as a political press release.

    They reeked of breath mints and future stardom.

    They sparkled with their blandness.

    I saw Jimmy sidle up to Kate and whisper something into her ear. It was probably a snappy definition of irony. Or metaphor. Jimmy put his mottled right hand on her shoulder and pressed in. I admired his gumption but, as naïve as she probably was, Jimmy was decades past his prime.

    A wised-up Kate then smacked him.

    As I smiled, a scratchy authoritative voice from the back chimed in with, “Oh, HE smokes. “How else do you explain what comes out of his mouth?”

    I was happy that the fringe Marijuana Press was becoming engaged in the race for the Republican nomination. So far, in the miasma of debates, the question of which of the candidates on the right had smoked a doobie hadn’t arisen.

    A stoned, fired-up Trump truly explained a lot.

    300 pressurized moments

  10. The Phoenix (291 words)
    By Sara Codair

    We all knew he was going to set himself on fire, and we were right. Henry and I just never imagined how our son, Dane, would go up in flames.

    It happened over summer vacation. The sun was scorching and the black top was so hot you could cook stir fry on it. Dane was angry. The wheels on his favorite skate board had melted. His face was beat red, aching with sunburn. So when Billy Jones tried to steal his Nintendo DS, he just lost and burst into flames.

    The medical examiner said it was spontaneous combustion, but he wasn’t there when it happened. He didn’t see his son out on the street raising a fist to punch a kid twice his size, just go up in flames when the sun hit his fist. He didn’t see how quick the body blackened. He didn’t see the naked baby screaming in the ashes - a baby that looked exactly how the burning boy had looked twelve years earlier.

    The papers said all that was left of Dane was a charred skeleton. They don’t know about the infant that wakes me every night crying for milk or to get his diaper changed. No one knows save Henry, and no one else can know. Not even my mother.

    We’re already packing. Henry has an apartment picked out across the country, and a buddy at work who can hack the system and get baby Dane a fake birth certificate and social security number. I don’t know what Henry told his friend, just that it wasn’t the truth.

    Like a phoenix, Dane was reborn from his ashes, starting life anew. So we, too, would start over, in a new town where no one knew our names.

  11. Sam Malkowski
    Word Count: 300
    Twitter: @the_Word_of_Sam

    When Freaks Grow Up

    “We all know he’s going to set himself on fire someday.”

    The bomb was crafted by an amateur. The wires snaked their way from contact points on the door and frame to a disheveled box on the floor of the car. I had to lean in the window to see it, half hidden under a discarded burger wrapper.

    “This is our problem child, Nicky.”

    I shook my mother’s laughter from my ears. I wished my parents could see me now, the way my audience did. The street was filled with pedestrians cowering behind police shields. They craned their necks just to watch me. Their sense of doom is forgotten amidst curiosity and awe.

    “What is wrong with you? Fire is not a toy.”

    They never saw me that way, as a hero.

    I have been building dead man switch bombs like this one since I was eleven years old. Six lawn chairs, three bikes, and a very expensive playset had been shattered and scattered around our backyard by my experiments. The impact of the explosion, the thunder it made, the power ignited from my own hands- these were addictions.

    My family never saw the creativity in it, or the science. I could take apart this bomb in under a minute, if I wanted to. But then there would be no pyrotechnics.

    All it would take is to open the door and that tiny makeshift bomb would crumple the metal around it like styrofoam in a microwave.

    “You’re a freak!”

    I pull the handle and the blast is imminent. I hear it first. Then the force of gunpowder combusting hits me in the chest and throws me backwards in a wave of heat. I’m pressed against the sidewalk.

    When I sit up, the crowd is cheering. I have made them proud.

  12. @mattlashley_
    276 words

    An Aging Parent’s Concern

    I thought he’d set himself on fire one day. Heaven knows his father and I tried lighting fires under him for years, until we found out. His father gave up some time ago, but I still try. Though, if I’m being honest--and why wouldn’t I be at this point--at thirty-two, my little Johnny (who’s not so little anymore) shows no signs of improving.

    I leaned forward and grabbed a few melting cubes from the bucket then eased back onto my wicker chair. The ice felt cool against my palm. On their way into my drink, a few cool drops dripped from the ice onto my hairy legs. I don’t remember the last time I shaved them.

    “Hey Johnny, swim over and clean the leaves out of the bug trap, will ya?” Simple tasks are best.

    He ducked under the water and pretended not to hear. A move he’d perfected around the age of eleven, around the time we found out. Any time anyone said anything he didn’t like, into and under the water Johnny went, like a playful otter hamming for the Discovery channel.

    When he came up, he was on the far side of the pool with his back toward me. “John-John, hon, can you do that for mommy?”

    He tilted his stubbly chin to the sky like a human Pez dispenser, arched his back and answered me with a backward somersault. He’s hopeless when he gets like this. I’m hopeless when he gets like this. Lately he’s always like this.

    He emerged, spurting a stream of water in my direction. “John,” I started. “The bug tra—“.

    I looked away and worried.

  13. I realize I missed the deadline but I wanted to share anyway in case anyone wanted to read my story. I used the octopus image prompt along with the first sentence prompt.

    In Light Of His Consummation
    WC 300



  14. I realize I missed the deadline but I wanted to share anyway in case anyone wanted to read my story. I used the octopus image prompt along with the first sentence prompt.

    In Light Of His Consummation
    WC 300